Reading is to your mind what exercise is to your body. To stay mentally fit, keeping your mind active and engaged is important. Whether interested in learning about specific topics or doing it leisurely for pleasure, you can reap the benefits of reading more. Reading extends your knowledge, expands your imagination, and is a timeless form of entertainment.
The Benefits of Reading More
Reading is a skill we learn how to do when we are young. Studies show that the benefits of reading more include increased confidence and motivation. However, as people get older, they do not like to read as much as binge-watching a TV series or scrolling through their social media pages. Reading is very underrated. Yet, there are several benefits to reading more:
- Promotes brain power
- Develops vocabulary and literacy
- Educates and entertains
- Increases longevity
- Reduces stress
- Teaches empathy
Promotes brain power
As you read, your brain forms neural connections, activating important sections of your brain. Reading regularly helps you think better, stay focused, and helps promote creative ideas. Scientists have studied how different regions of the brain work when reading and found that even after you stop reading, parts of your brain continue to strengthen and develop. Other parts of the brain keep track of the information we read about, such as who the characters are or the story’s setting. The research concluded that reading about an activity activates the same parts of the brain when actually doing that activity. Reading is brain exercise!
Develops vocabulary and literacy
Reading takes time and practice. As you read, you expand your vocabulary and refine your fluency, accuracy, and grammar skills. Exposure to new words and increasing your grasp of diverse perspectives will result in improved and effective communication skills. With practice, learning new words through context becomes easier, and your "word bank" grows.
Educates and Entertains
The more you read, the more you know. There are life lessons you can learn from reading. Reading offers endless knowledge and opportunities to indulge in subjects or stories you are interested in. Reading can help you be articulate in conversation. Your topics of interest will vary throughout different stages of life. From fairytales to textbooks, parenting books to self-development books, reading provides an outlet that can influence your life forever.
The benefits of reading more could be your advantage against age-related cognitive decline. A study supported by the National Institute of Aging examined whether avid readers had a survival advantage over those who do not read. The research showed a reduction of up to 20% in mortality for readers versus non-readers. Researchers found that three types of behavioral change could help: physical activity, blood pressure control, and cognitive training. The National Institute of Aging recommends reading books and puzzles to stimulate your mind. Researchers found that you would be less likely to develop problems in your brain, such as dementia or Alzheimer's.
Stress is a part of life. Whether you want to indulge in literary fiction or scientific journals, reading is a great way to escape stressful worries. Reading can take your mind off your worries and help your body feel better. It can reduce stress by slowing your heart rate and relieving muscle tension. Reading for 30 minutes daily can support your mental health. Since one of the benefits of reading more is reduced stress, this helps stabilize your blood pressure and physical health.
It can be hard to understand other people's feelings. Psychological studies examine how reading stories with characters can help people understand others and the world. We need to think about why the characters make certain choices, how they interact with each other, and what they want. We build an emotional connection when we read and can understand them better. We then learn how to better understand the real people around us.
How Can I Find the Time to Read More?
First, ask yourself what you want to read more of. Reading material is accessible with a click or a swipe. Search for something you are interested in. When you find what sparks your interest, reading becomes a priority. To start reading regularly, try some of these strategies:
- Start small with short stories, articles, and blogs.
- Set a realistic goal, whether a certain number of pages or a duration each day.
- Plan for it. Block off time to read and look forward to it. For example, make it part of your bedtime routine.
- Try different ways of reading. Some people like to read traditional, printed books. Others want to use an electronic device like a Kindle or iPad. You can listen to audiobooks while doing something else. Regardless of how you are reading, find what works for you.
- Find a group of people in your community that like to read. Inquire in libraries, at social events, or in social media groups. Ask family and friends to be participants. Join reading challenges that can keep you motivated and accountable.
What Materials Should I Read to Help Me Build a Healthy Habit
Now that you have decided to up your reading game, what should you read first? Choose something to read that you are excited about. If you love to cook, get a cookbook. (If you try a new recipe, that's a win-win!) Or if binge-watching romantic comedies is your type of entertainment, try a romance novel. You can learn about science, too. The only way to get better at reading is by doing it—so pick the book you will read.
Bavishi, A., Slade, M.D., & Levy, B.R. (2016). A chapter a day: Association of book reading with longevity. Social Science & Medicine, 164, 44-48. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.07.014. Epub 2016 Jul 18. PMID: 27471129; PMCID: PMC5105607. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5105607/
Houston, S.M., Lebel, C., Katzir, T., Manis, F.R., Kan, E., Rodriguez, G.G., & Sowell, E.R. (2014). Reading skill and structural brain development. Neuroreport, 25(5), 347-52. doi: 10.1097/WNR.0000000000000121. PMID: 24407200; PMCID: PMC4128180. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4128180/
National Institute on Aging. (2020, October 1). Cognitive Health and Older Adults. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/cognitive-health-and-older-adults#mind
Speer, N.K., Reynolds, J.R., Swallow, K.M., & Zacks, J.M. (2009). Reading stories activates neural representations of visual and motor experiences. Psychological Science, 20(8), 989-99. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02397.x. Epub 2009 Jun 30. PMID: 19572969; PMCID: PMC2819196. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19572969/
Wigfield, A., Gladstone, J., & Turci, L. (2016). Beyond Cognition: Reading Motivation and Reading Comprehension. Child Development Perspectives, 10(3), 190–195. doi: 10.1111/cdep.12184. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5014370/
Nurse writer bio:
Judy Campbell is a registered nurse with over a decade of experience in various care settings. Her passion lies in care coordination, where she can make the most significant impact at the intersection of patients, providers, and healthcare settings. As a reputable freelance writer, she also enjoys producing high-quality content for healthcare professionals. When she's not working, Judy loves spending time with her family camping or relaxing by the beach.
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